I am not sure if this is blasphemous but this morning I imagined Jesus banging His head off a wall in frustration. I feel like doing that after I have explained something very clearly to my kids and then they go away and do the exact opposite so if Jesus is fully human? That odd thought crossed my mind reading after hearing Jesus say some pretty clear stuff about leadership
“Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:42-45
Jesus lays it on the line when it comes to leadership He very clearly rules certain attitude and actions are out of bounds for leaders in the Kingdom of God “Not so with you.” What is it that is unacceptable among those who will lead this fresh expression of God’s people that Jesus is creating? Jesus calls it a style of leadership which “Lords it over” others. It is leadership which is all about power and status which is motivated by self seeking and self promoting attitudes whose goal is always more, more power, more wealth, more status. Leadership which “lords it over others” is self serving. I am pretty sure that Jesus had leaders like Herod the Great in mind when he talked about ‘lording it over” people. Herod was a genocidial, paranoid, utterly ruthless tyrant but he was “great” if greatness is about “lording it” over others about gaining enough power, authority, status and wealth to be able to use others for your purposes and benefit.
What I can’t get my mind around is how in the church, that is among people Jesus was speaking to when he said “not so with you” that when it comes to leadership we ended up with:
. Crowns and palaces for Popes
. Hierarchical pecking orders like bishop, archbishop, cardinal
. Bishops with palaces, who sit on thrones in churches and who expected to be called “my lord”
. Titles for church leaders like “venerable” or “the right,’ “the very” or “the most” reverend
. Evangelists who live in luxury and claim a private jet is a necessity
. Elders or “board members” who marshall family voting blocks at AGMS so they can retain their family’s control of the church
. Pastors who use fear and intimidation to control congregations
. “Top Tables” where the ministers sit at church gatherings with china crockery and fancy food while the laity have plastic cups and pies on paper plates
Its when I think of Jesus seeing and hearing that kind of stuff that I imagine him banging his head off a wall and saying in frustration “What part of “not so with you” did you not get?” Too much of the church, too often has, as we say in Scotland, “thrown a deafie” to Jesus when it comes to the nature and practice of leadership. Those words from Jesus were prompted by James and John trying to use the opportunity of leadership among Jesus followers as a pathway to personal power for personal gain. Down through the centuries into our generation too high a proportion of leaders in the church have taken the same path for the same reasons.
The tragedy of this all is that Jesus redefined what a great leader is and so what leadership is whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. Leadership in the Kingdom of God is inspired and shaped by Jesus, by Jesus’ life of sacrifice and servanthood which reached its climax and was demonstrated with greatest clarity on the cross. Its not that servanthood was to be the unique defining characteristic of leaders but rather it was to be characteristic of everyone who has entered the Kingdom of God and so indispensable for leaders because only servant leaders can lead a servant community to serve the Servant King.
We really need to relearn this and save Jesus the bruises on his forehead. Jesus’ leadership strategy was that his church was to be a community of servants led by servants. I have come to believe that where I live in this post Christian culture that servanthood is not only the only authentically christian leadership “strategy” but the only ultimately effective one too. What Christian leader has made the greatest impact in the last 20 years or so? I think if we are talking about amongst those outside the church, it would be small, rather frail if determined nun, who gave her life to serving the poor and dying at great personal cost. Amongst the people I know who are not Christ followers they have no idea who John Maxwell, Bill Hybels or Ken Blanchard are and they sneer at Pope and often laugh at the Archbishop of Canterbury. We can complain that they are being unfair in their assessments of those people but that’s the reality. However bring up the name of Mother Teresa and nine times out of ten there is far more than grudging admiration. Perhaps the most effective apologist in contemporary culture will not be some learned church leader who can argue Richard Dawkins to an embarrassed silence but a servant leader who leads a servant community by example?
Maybe as well as reading all those leadership books and seminars we should start singing and more importantly living out some words from that old Graham Kendrick song,
So let us learn how to serve,
And in our lives enthrone Him;
Each other’s needs to prefer,
For it is Christ we’re serving.